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Mercy Corps Calls for Vaccines, vaccine equity as Africa sees record COVID cases

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Many African countries are in the grip of the third wave as the Delta variant continues to take hold. According to WHO, Africa recorded an additional 1 million cases over the past month - the fastest surge the continent has seen. Unfortunately, Africa is also struggling with limited or no vaccine supplies to support mass vaccination to tackle the virus.

Mercy Corps' Regional Director for Africa, Sean Granville-Ross, says:

"We are staring at a nightmare scenario as COVID-19 cases explode, driving many African nations closer to a catastrophe.

"Even as COVID-19 cases are rising, only about 3% of all global COVID-19 vaccine doses to date have been given in Africa. The number of vaccines available in Africa now is nowhere near the number needed to vaccinate clinically at-risk groups comprehensively, nor is it enough to meaningfully contain the spread of the virus.

"The African Union's commitment to reach 20% vaccination rates by the end of 2021 is an essential starting point, but global efforts to meet it have fallen short. We could be into 2023 before 20 of the most conflict-affected countries in the world, 10 of which are in Africa, have widespread access to vaccines. Our research also shows that the pandemic and the efforts to contain it without vaccines are amplifying the risk of global conflict. The longer communities must endure lockdowns, the more worried we become about the cascading side effects.

"Global efforts to send vaccines, including the U.S. commitment to donate 25 million doses, are welcome, but they have to get in arms swiftly. We urge all higher-income countries to take concrete action to address the vast vaccine inequities keeping millions standing at the back of the line."

Ndubisi Anyanwu, Mercy Corps Nigeria Country Director says:

"The humanitarian crisis in northeast Nigeria remains one of the most severe in the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced up the number of people in need in Nigeria to 10.6 million from 7.9 million in January 2020. We are seeing increasing instability and armed group activities. COVID-19 lockdowns, border closures, and movement restrictions contributed to pervasive insecurity by intensifying widespread economic hardship and heightening gaps in security provision.

"There's also rampant misinformation, so we started a rumor tracker to combat it. People need vaccines, but they also need information. They need to trust healthcare providers and be willing to take the vaccine when it's offered to them."

Mildred Makore, Mercy Corps Zimbabwe Country Director, says:

"Positive COVID-19 cases are rising rapidly, and death rates are increasing day by day. Communities we work with now tell us that they can put these numbers to the faces, and it's petrifying.

"In partnership with a local radio station, Mercy Corps Zimbabwe is running a COVID-19 awareness campaign in high-risk areas and addressing misinformation and questions about vaccines. We are seeing vaccination centres overwhelmed with people who eagerly aspire to be vaccinated, meaning the communities are getting the message. Unfortunately, there are not enough shots for everyone. So far, only just over one million people have received the first dose.

"We urgently need to find an effective and timely solution to enable the equitable distribution of vaccines to people everywhere."